(Reuters) – Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said Champions League visitors Napoli will be tough to beat on Wednesday night regardless of the situation at the Italian club, where the president is reportedly in a standoff with his coach and players.
Klopp confirmed that forward Mohamed Salah, who missed the weekend’s Premier League win at Crystal Palace with an injury, was back in training.
Gazzetta dello Sport said Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis was set to fine the club’s players a quarter of their monthly wages after they broke off a week-long training retreat this month in what Italian media called a mutiny.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli are second in Group E, a point behind Liverpool, and are not yet assured of qualification for the last 16 with two games to go. But Klopp said playing away from Italy may give the players a welcome break.
“I expect Napoli to be really strong for a number of reasons… They are a really good football team. And now that they’re not in Italy, they feel maybe relief they can play in this game. We have to be ready for that,” Klopp told reporters.
“Napoli gave us a proper fight at Anfield last season (in a 1-0 win)… We expect them to be strong. Whatever has happened, I don’t have a real idea. But if I was a player, I’d be trying to bring the group together and fight the things from outside.
“We have to make sure from the first second this is a different place tomorrow. We want to go as far as possible in the Champions League. Napoli are experienced, tactically strong, super players.”
A win for either side will assure qualification with a game to spare, and both teams will qualify regardless of the result if winless Genk beat Red Bull Salzburg.
“(The final group game in Salzburg is) not in our mind. Tomorrow night, we try to win, it would be massive for us for different reasons. We don’t feel like we are already halfway through,” Klopp said.
Klopp said defender Joel Matip, sidelined with a knee injury since October, was still some time away from a return.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)